SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Most school districts in Indiana have already gone to a mask optional plan as they still navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, but South Bend Schools were among the last holdouts to keep masks required up until this week.

At a school board meeting on Monday, the district voted to move to mask optional status for classrooms in all school buildings in South Bend, at the recommendation of Assistant Superintendent Brandon White.

He laid out the latest CDC guidance at the meeting.

“If a community is in the ‘low’ category, individuals don’t have to wear masks at that point,” he said. “But, they want to stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and if they show any symptoms they should get tested.”

At last check, South Bend is in the low category of COVID spread as it pertains to the latest CDC guidance. St. Joseph County’s COVID positivity rate sits at 3-percent.

“This evening the district is recommending we move to a ‘mask recommended status’,” White added. “Any individual that still feels for their personal health decisions they could still and will be allowed to wear masks, but for individuals who chose not to it would no longer be required.”

The board did allow for public comment before taking up a vote on White’s recommendations.

“With the mask optional policy, (parents) are still able to send their children to school with masks if they chose to do so, but by mandating masks for all students you are punishing the lot for the few,” said one parent.

“The relief to the students will be immeasurable,” said another parent. “My own sixth-grader has never seen her classmates’ or teachers’ faces in middle school. My 2nd grader was a kindergartner when this all started so she has no recollection are what it’s really like to be at school.”

The board voted to adopted White’s recommendations and starting today, masks will be optional in all South Bend school classrooms, lunchrooms, and buses.